Health Secretary to look into West Hertfordshire Trust's hospital decision to rule out a new site

Trust says its decision was driven by the need for new and better buildings in the shortest timeframe possible

By Reporter
Monday, 14th February 2022, 3:01 pm

Health Secretary Sajid Javid is set to look into the West Hertfordshire Trust’s decision to rule out a new hospital on a clear central site.

The move comes after a delegation led by Hemel Hempstead MP Sir Mike Penning met with the Health Secretary.

They are calling for a new hospital on a clear site, which Sir Mike Penning says would provide good access for everyone, cheaper speedy construction and a greener environment.

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The delegation met with the Health Secretary

And Mr Javid is now set to speak to the Trust to ask how it came to its decision to rule out a new site.

Meanwhile, the Trust says its decision was "driven by the need to deliver new and better buildings in the shortest timeframe possible."

It will spend the lion's share of funding rebuilding Watford General Hospital, while smaller investments will go towards St Albans and Hemel Hempstead hospitals, which the Trust has previously said will include "a mixture of some new build and some refurbishment of current buildings on these two sites".

In the Trust's proposals, Hemel Hempstead Hospital will be the site for patients receiving planned medical care and those with long-term conditions.

The starfish hospital design

Sir Mike said: “I am very glad that Sajid has shown such an open mind. He listened to some very powerful evidence from experts in building, design and finance - several of them my constituents.

"We told him how much the Trust has cut corners in forcing through the Watford General decision. He was interested to hear about new designs that might work especially well on a clear new site.

“There are so many reasons why the whole of West Herts would benefit from a truly new hospital on a clear site to fulfil the Government’s promise in 2019 – for instance good access for everyone, cheaper, speedy construction and a greener environment. The Trust should stop insisting on patching up the hospital in the middle of the growing Riverwell housing estate, right next door to Watford Football Ground.”

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The MP added that the delegation would be sending the Health Secretary a dossier of information, which he said details "how public spending rules have been bent in making the case for Watford General".

At the meeting, David Leonard from Leonard Design and Deirdre King presented his Starfish Hospital design to the Secretary of State for Health. The design was a finalist in the 2021 Wolfson Prize for Economics, and the campaigners say it could be developed as the centrepiece of a new strategically located acute care hospital and health campus.

Philip Aylett, Co-ordinator of the local New Hospital Campaign (NHC) was also at the meeting. He said: “The Trust refused, on very shaky evidence, to carry out a proper economic appraisal of any new clear site in 2020. The Trust failed to follow public spending rules and the costs and timings of the project are now out of control."

And Steve Day from HertsValleysHospital.co.uk added that he hoped the Health Secretary would ensure clear sites are "properly evaluated" and added: "Our proposal will retain the three existing sites as community and outpatient facilities with the major Acute hospital being in central location as opposed to Watford.”

Royal Free Property Services undertook an independent site feasibility study of greenfield sites - but concluded that "greenfield options carry far greater risk and complexity compared to the Watford General Hospital site options evidenced in the projected achievable timelines".

Meanwhile, the Trust's plans have received support from politicians including Elected Mayor of Watford, Peter Taylor, and the town's MP Dean Russell - who previously stated that the Trust's "years of hard work and detailed examination of the facts, finances and feedback behind their proposal will deliver the best solution for hospital services across its three sites".

A spokesman for the Trust said: “We’re very happy to share our rationale for ruling out a new site in favour of retaining and redeveloping our three hospitals.

"Our decision was driven by the need to deliver new and better buildings in the shortest timeframe possible."